'Caroline Class' by Esmond Atkinson (private collection)

November exhibition focuses on New Zealand brothers' WW1 naval sketches

Posted on centenarynews.com on 06 October 2016
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First World War naval scenes drawn by the New Zealand brothers, Esmond and Hal Atkinson, will be displayed at a gallery overlooking Wellington Harbour in November 2016.

From 1916-1918, the Atkinson brothers served in Britain's Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, patrolling the English Channel and the North Sea. 

They shared a love of the sea, sailing and sketching. The forthcoming exhibition of 80 small pen and ink sketches, at a gallery in their home region, includes drawings of warships that fought at Jutland 100 years ago and lighter moments from life at sea.


First World War naval artworks by New Zealanders are described as rare, and these drawings have been loaned from a private collection to coincide with the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th anniversary celebrations next month. 

The three-week exhibition opens at the Alfred Memelink Artspace Gallery in Petone on 3 November 2016.

Esmond Atkinson, an accomplished artist of the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts, made detailed sketches of the dreadnoughts, battlecruisers and destroyers of the British Grand Fleet, often using the back of flimsy paper acquired from the official record pads in the ship's signal office.

He captured scenes of the fleet at sea in wild weather, in calm back at port, flying kite balloons and 'dazzled' for camouflage. Thirteen ships of the Royal Navy and the Imperial German Navy featured in the exhibition are veterans of the Battle of Jutland, fought in the North Sea in 1916.

'Officers' by Hal Atkinson (private collection)

Esmond Atkinson's younger brother, Hal, often sketched unexpected moments, such as bumping into mines, U-boats surfacing close by, damaged shipping, and salvaging a white ensign which they flew on the return to base.

The exhibition will also feature a 1.5m model of a Warrior Class armoured cruiser, built by model maker Graham Beeson, in dazzle camouflage and fitted with torpedo booms and nets. There will be readings from Esmond’s war diary letters and an exhibition catalogue 'The Atkinson Boys' Own Guide to the Navy 1916'  has been written by Claire Clark, and printed by the Royal New Zealand Navy. 

'AHOY! WW1 Naval Artists Lieutenants Esmond and Hal Atkinson' runs at Alfred Memelink Artspace Gallery, 223 The Esplanade, Petone, Lower Hutt (New Zealand's Wellington region) from 3-23 November 2016. More information can be found here. The exhibition is sponsored by the Lottery World War One Environment & Heritage Committee of the Lottery Grants Board, Hutt City Council, New Zealand Micrographic Services, Royal New Zealand Navy and Alfred Memelink Artspace Gallery.

Source: Claire Clark

Images: Private Collection

Posted by: CN Editorial Team